HC Deb 28 February 1961 vol 635 cc1525-49

10.28 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty. praying that the Skimmed Milk with Non-Milk Fat Regulations, 1960 (S.I., 1960, No. 2331), dated 12th December, 1960, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th December, be annulled. I take it, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that we can take both these Motions at the same time.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

If that is for the convenience of the House, but, of course, the second Motion cannot be moved after the hour of half-past Eleven o'clock.

Mr. de Freitas

I should begin by explaining what filled milk is. Filled milk is not milk which is fortified with something to make it better than ordinary milk. It is skimmed milk to which vegetable fat has been added, and skimmed milk is milk from which the natural fat has been removed to make cream or butter. There is nothing wrong—let us get this straight at once—and I am not arguing that there is anything wrong, with this mock milk which is made by the addition of vegetable fat to skimmed milk. What we are arguing is that these Regulations are wrong, not that there is anything wrong with mock milk as such. One of my hon. Friends in the Lobby a moment ago told me—and it may be the case with other hon. Members too—that on medical instructions he drinks this mock milk, and for all I know many good and distinguished firms make this mock milk, and that there is nothing wrong with it. There is nothing wrong so long as the customer who buys it is warned that it is not milk. That is the key.

I want to stress this. Neither are we arguing that this mock milk should be prohibited from being sold. Those who go as far as that point to the fact that in many continental countries—France, Germany, Belgium and over forty of the states in the American Union—the sale is prohibited. But we do not go as far as that. All we seek is to ensure that a caterer who uses mock milk in any beverage, which by common use is expected to contain milk, shall have to disclose the use of mock milk instead of real milk. In other words, if I go and buy a "cuppa", I should he told if I was drinking modern vegetable fat instead of good old-fashioned milk from old-fashioned cows.

All this is in the pattern of the Government's attitude towards synthetics. Hon. Members may remember that only about two years ago there was quite a struggle to ensure that the description "dairy ice cream" was restricted to ice cream made of milk, and it was too late to save the description of "ice cream" without the "dairy". That had already gone, and today when most people who buy ice cream think they are getting a milk product they are not. They are getting vegetable fat.

A few minutes ago I used these words: All we seek is to ensure that a caterer who uses mock milk in any beverage, which by common use is expected to contain milk, shall have to disclose the use of mock milk instead of real milk. Those words are almost exactly the words of the Ministry's original draft which was put out at the end of 1958. After some months of discussion these draft Regulations were amended, but even when they were amended disclosure was still required and it said that the notice must be clearly visible and legible to the intending purchaser. But after consultation with the synthetic food manufacturers and the caterers, but not with the agricultural organisations, these present Regulations were laid before the House. These Regulations do not in any way require the caterer to disclose the use of mock milk in cups of tea or coffee or other drinks which it is usual to make with milk. I am told that one of the justifications for this is that it is a compromise. The only compromise that I can think fits with this case is the compromise, which hon. Members may remember, to which Mr. Truman has referred in his memoirs—the compromise of Potsdam, when the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and Mr. Stalin were arguing about what was to be done with the German Navy. The right hon. Gentleman said, "It should be sunk beneath the waves because it is infamous "and Mr. Stalin said that it should be divided between Russia and Britain. They continued to argue throughout the day and in the course of the evening President Truman writes that Mr. Stalin said, "You British like compromise. Let us compromise, Mr. Churchill. Let us divide the German Navy and you sink your half."

That is what has happened here. The very basis of these Regulations as they were originally drafted, which was to protect the consumer, has been thrown out. It is no compromise at all. It is complete victory for those who want to sell this mock milk in circumstances in which the consumer will think that he is getting ordinary milk. No wonder that as soon as these Regulations were laid there came from both consumers and producers a howl of disapproval.

I should like to remind the House that this Motion was put down as soon as we came back after the Recess. I had to be quick about it because I read in the Press that the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) had been saying that it was certain that Conservative Members of Parliament would want to debate this Motion. I am very glad—I wanted us to have the initiative—that they are so pleased about this debate. and I trust that they will take part in it.

I did not realise that I should have support from so many hon. Members opposite when I tabled the Prayer. The Farming Express—I am sure that everyone concerned with agriculture, especially the Minister, will always be grateful for the interest which the Farming Express has aroused in this problem— [Laughter.]—collected the opinions of hon. Members from all parts of the country, and I was much encouraged by the warmth and understanding shown by so many of them. I was particularly touched by the way in which they thought of the consumer at this difficult time—almost as if a General Election were pending.

This support was widely distributed. In the south of England we had the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Sir O. Prior-Palmer), who said: Anything which is being sold as a certain product should be sold in such a way that the consumer knows what he is getting. A fair statement. We then go from the South to East Anglia for the hon. Mem- ber for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Collard). He made it clear. He said: If a substitute is being used, the caterer must say so. I entirely agree with that.

But it was not only the rural areas. In the London area the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) put it this way: The public should be able to know when they buy a cup of tea or coffee whether it contains fresh milk or skim. He added: You can count on my support. I am very pleased.

Then—I am quoting only a selection to show how widely based the support is throughout the country—from Scotland we had the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart), who said: If caterers were made to announce the use of filled milk, it would be a benefit not only to milk producers but to those who drink it. That is fair, taking the producer's point of view as well.

From the Midlands we had the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Hocking) saying: I will do all I can to support your compaign. Then he declared an interest: I have always drunk a considerable quantity of milk. That is general support. As to the Prayer—

Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)

Would my hon. Friend give an account of the gallant history in this matter of the participation of the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport), who, having supported the Prayer, announced his strategic withdrawal on the eve of this debate?

Mr. de Freitas

I have a number of quotations with which I will not burden the House, but I hope that my hon. and learned Friend may have an opportunity of making that point. It was interesting to see the hon. and gallant Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] —charging in with his usual strength and positiveness and then retreating so abjectly afterwards.

As to the Prayer itself, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) was the most forthcoming. I realise that he knows a great deal about this industry. He put it this way: If the Regulations are prayed against in the House, I will support the view that a declaration should be compulsory. I know that the hon. Member has not been well, and I shall excuse him if he does not speak in support of the Motion. But the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) is fighting fit, in good trim—at least, he was when I saw him only recently. [Horn. MEMBERS: Where is he?"] He is emphatic on this. He said simply: I could not support any legislation which enabled caterers to give me fake milk in my tea without telling me. I much regret that I cannot find any statement made by a Lincolnshire Conservative Member of Parliament. This appears to be one of the few controversial topics on which the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne) has not recently expressed an opinion. I know he would like me to remind the House in his absence that the Lincolnshire branch of the National Farmers' Union, many members of which are his constituents, have written to me wishing me success with this Prayer.

Most of what I have said, except in the last few sentences, has been from the consumers' point of view. What about the producer, especially the small farmers who have co-operated loyally with the Ministry in schemes to eradicate disease and to raise standards in every way so that today we have a milk industry which produces the purest milk in the world? What do they feel about this? I can quote what the Chief Marketing Officer of the Milk Marketing Board, Mr. Jones, said as reported in the Farmers Weekly

Sir James Duncan (South Angus)


Mr. de Freitas

I do not know when it was said, but it was reported on 17th February. Referring to dairy producers, he said their market was under pressure from substitutes: trying to cash in on the goodwill attaching to real butter. cream, ice-cream and, now, even liquid milk itself. He went on to say: I regret to say that in recent years the Government appears to have gone out of its way to appease these commercial interests at the expense of the producer. No wonder the Milk Marketing Board has taken such a very strong line against these Regulations.

Many of us will have had representations on this matter. I have had deputations and representations from organisations directly concerned like the Milk Marketing Board and letters or representations from the National Dairymen's Association, the Co-operative Union—

Sir John Maitland (Horncastle)

Did the National Dairymen's Association tell the hon. Member to vote for this Prayer?

Mr. de Freitas

This is quite a difficult point. When I deal with the National Farmers' Union I shall come to that.

Sir J. Maitland

Did the National Dairy men's Association ask the hon. Member to vote on this matter?

Mr. de Freitas

I have no recollection that there was anything said on this. Certainly it is opposed to the Regulations, whether it discussed the question of voting on them or not, I do not remember. But it will come out in the point about the National Farmers' Union, and I shall come to that. I said, "directly concerned".

Sir J. Maitland

Tell us about them.

Mr. de Freitas

I do not remember whether the association ask me to vote against or not, but I shall deal with that particular point when I come to the National Farmers' Union.

Sir J. Maitland

How can the hon. Member deal with the point if he does not know what was said?

Mr. de Freitas

The point is whether they wanted me to vote against the Regulations or not, or whether only to make a display.

Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

Is it not true that there are about 6,900 milk retailers who have expressed the opinion that we should vote against these Regulations? That should be representative of many dairymen.

Mr. de Freitas

Yes, but that was not the question I was asked. I was asked whether when the National Dairymen's Association came to see me they asked me to vote against it, and that question I could not answer, but my hon. Friend is right.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

Whether they did or did not, some of us will vote against it.

Mr. de Freitas

There have also been representations from those indirectly concerned, and there I refer to organisations such as the County Councils Association and the Association of Municipal Corporations. There is only one association I can find which actually supports the Government. That is the Council of the English National Farmers' Union. The Council of the Scottish National Farmers' Union has not taken that line.

Mr. J. A. Stodart (Edinburgh, West)

The Scottish Milk Marketing Board also supports the Government.

Mr. de Freitas

It seems best that I should quote what the English National Farmers' Union said in its journal recently.

The Union said that the Minister had made it clear that he is not going to extend the regulations as far as the Union and many other critics would wish, while, such is the nature of Parliamentary procedure, the regulations have to be accepted or rejected in toto. … We should rather get four-fifths of our case accepted … than get nothing at all. But that is a completely false representation of the position. It is not a question of 80 per cent. or nothing. The choice is between the Minister being defeated on or withdrawing the Regulations, which cover only 80 per cent. of the case, and then tomorrow morning introducing Regulations which cover 100 per cent. It is a choice not between 80 per cent and nothing, but between 80 per cent. and 100 per cent. The Regulations are already there, drafted since 1958 and approved in 1959.

The truth is the Government do not want to protect the public and the producers from the synthetic makers. They seem to have got across, not only to the National Farmers' Union but to some hon. Members, that it is a choice between 80 per cent. and nothing at all. It is nothing of the kind.

Many hon. Members opposite wish to speak in support of the Prayer and I do not want to shut them out. These are combined Regulations signed by both the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Health, but the Minister of Health is not present to hear our discussion. The Minister of Agriculture is a man very different from the Minister of Health. He is a kindly man and fundamentally decent. He has time to repent, as I hope he will. I ask him to withdraw the Regulations and to introduce new Regulations giving 100 per cent. protection to the producers and the consumers.

10.48 p.m.

Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

I am very glad that I have been called to take part in the debate, because I have been named by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas). I say at once that I was a little misrepresented in the Press. All I gave was an undertaking to make an effort to speak in the debate. The hon. Member for Lincoln has done a good job tonight, but there is evidence that he rather coloured the picture more than someone with my background would have done.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

Is the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) saying that he gave an undertaking to speak in the debate but did not indicate whether he would support or oppose a Prayer of this kind?

Mr. Gurden

I said exactly what I stated. I said that I would speak in the debate and I did not give an undertaking about which way I would vote, simply because I wanted to hear the Government's views and intentions and defence of their case. As the matter stands at the moment, I have no intention of going into either Lobby, unless I hear something during the debate which will change my mind.

The position is that there is a principle which the Government are not honouring. The word "milk" was held to mean full-cream cow's milk with nothing added to it and nothing taken from it. That description had been accepted by Governments for very many years, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the general public understands the word to mean no more and no less than that.

There is nothing wrong with drinking skimmed milk. It is a very good food, indeed, and for those who are a little corpulent it is very much better than is the full milk. The fact remains that all Governments have accepted that skimmed milk should be clearly labelled "skim" or "skimmed". That always means that the fat has been removed.

A vast amount of the milk now sold would be covered by this Regulation. Every day people are drinking more and more Horlick's, chocolate, coffee and milk shakes. Horlick's is at present about 95 per cent. whole milk— [An HON. MEMBER: "A commercial."] I have no shares in Horlick's. I understand that if this Regulation is not altered, Horlick's could be mixed with filled milk—and chocolate certainly could. A cup of chocolate now contains—or should contain—about 95 per cent. of whole milk, arid I am quite sure that it would not be beyond the ingenuity of many people to alter the description "milk shake" by giving that beverage another name in advertisements. As a result, just because flavouring and colouring had been added, this filled milk could be used in such drinks.

I am quite sure of the reason for the attitude of the National Farmers' Union—[An HON. MEMBER: "It's English."] I am told that the Scottish N.F.U. take the same attitude. Together, directly or indirectly, they have control of the Milk Marketing Board, and have on their hands every year a vast quantity of skimmed milk of which they have to dispose. Obviously, if they can get a customer to buy skimmed milk—

Mr. Percy Browne (Torrington)

With respect, that is a ridiculous argument. Since the Milk Marketing Board gets a much better price for whole milk, one would expect it to be keener to sell the whole milk than the skimmed.

Mr. Gurden

It gets a very good price for whole milk—

Mr. Browne

No—a better price.

Mr. Gorden

—but a very bad price at the moment for skimmed milk. But it could obviously get more money for the skimmed milk if there was an expanding market for filled milk. It is quite obvious that in those circumstances the Board, which from time to time has had to destroy skimmed milk, could easily find a very good market for it.

It could not be argued that this would in any way interfere with the price of whole milk. The Milk Marketing Board can as a rule get rid of all its whole milk products provided whole milk products are not imported to a large degree. When other milk products are imported, the Board is then left with skimmed milk on its hands. We in the milk trade always call anything but butter fat foreign fat, and that applies to any other sort of fat that is ultimately produced. I should like my right hon. Friend to give an undertaking that he will seriously go into this matter and make it clear to the public that milk really means milk.

10.55 p.m.

Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)

So that there shall be no confusion, I wrote to the Farming Express and said that I was against the Regulations. That fact was printed by the paper, and I propose to go into the Division Lobby. I was not misreported.

I received this morning, as I think all hon. Members received, one of the most cynical documents ever sent to an hon. Member. It came from the Caterers' Association, one of the pressure groups which presumably has been at work on the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to two or three things said in this document in support of the Regulations. They are fantastic. It says: As a matter of principle, therefore, they would always object to any proposal requireing them to notify their customers of the contents of food or beverages supplied. That is a warning never to order "hot dogs" in a restaurant. It is introducing a new defence in common law on the part of the caterers when a man says, "I ordered beef and you gave me horse". It could not possibly be accepted.

Then there is the fantastic statement that if customers do not like a beverage they will not order it again. Coffee would not be sold in this country today if that were true. The sort of stuff that the caterers give us, and which people go on ordering, refutes that.

The document says that they will be able to make more money if they sell filled milk—because they will be able to buy it cheaper—than if they sell whole milk. That, it is suggested, is a reason for supporting the Regulations.

I have another point to put which is infinitely more serious. Many people round my age suffer from an excess of cholesterol in their blood. This is a fatty deposit left in the arteries, which, some members of the medical profession believe, though they cannot prove, comes from an excess of animal fat in the body. Cholesterol is made by the liver, but it can be stimulated, so these medical men believe, by eating too much animal fat. They therefore recommend that people who have a high cholesterol rate should use skimmed milk, which is devoid of animal fats.

As I read paragraph 5 of the First Schedule of the Regulation, an opportunity is here given by the Minister for a manufacturer of filled milk to advertise his filled milk as having some effect on cholesterol sufferers. Nobody has any right to say that until the medical profession have proved it to the hilt. Although the medical profession may believe that the present indication is that too much animal fat may lead to an excess of cholesterol, they are not absolutely certain of that. It would be a dreadful thing if, as a result of retaining paragraph 5 of the First Schedule, an unscrupulous advertiser could suggest, in the ways to which we have become accustomed by the claims made in television advertising, that drinking filled milk would be of particular benefit for a man who is overweight, who is obese, and who may well be suffering from too much cholesterol.

It is bad enough that a substitute is now to be foisted on the public. It is bad enough that people should now have to say, "I want a cup of tea with milk" or "I want a cup of coffee with milk". It is bad enough that people will have to remember that what has been a lifelong custom when they order something to drink is now to be broken. But it is even more serious if there should exist a dangerous possibility like this where, as I say, the unscrupulous advertiser, provided that he makes the appropriate designation of each fat or oil present, can so advertise his filled milk that the man suffering in the way I have described will be led to believe that he is doing himself good by buying and drinking it.

I should have thought that the Ministers would have consulted the Minister of Health and the Medical Research Council and would have had conversa- tions with people who are specialists in coronary troubles of one sort or another, since coronary diseases are specifically mentioned in the Regulations, to ensure that the possibilities of distortion and misstatement do not arise in the way they do from the Regulations as now drafted.

11.2 p.m.

Sir Anthony Hurd (Newbury)

I should have liked to congratulate the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) on his first appearance as spokesman for the Opposition on these matters.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

That is wrong for a start.

Sir A. Hurd

We are very happy to see him in this new position, but I wish that he had had a rather better wicket on which to bat. The pitch he has chosen for himself tonight cannot be a very comfortable one, and it certainly will become more uncomfortable in the future.

This is a most extraordinary campaign which has been waged by the Farming Express. I was not trapped by it, although some hon. Members seem to have been a little misled. The purpose of the Regulations now being prayed against is to protect the consumer. That is their sole purpose. They make it an offence to pass off the substitute, skimmed milk with the natural fat removed and vegetable fat substituted, as cow's milk. Article 4 makes it quite clear that nothing of this kind can be sold with a description suggestive of milk or of anything connected with the dairy interest. That is fairly comprehensive.

Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)

When my hon. Friend asks for a coffee, does he ask for coffee and milk or for a white coffee?

Sir A. Hurd

I shall come to that in a moment, if my hon. Friend will be a little patient.

It becomes an offence to label or advertise a substitute in a way which suggests that it is cow's milk. I congratulate the Government on being fairly up to date in their thinking and action on this matter. It is quite a new product. A great deal of intensive thought has gone into the problems it sets and the best way of safeguarding the public. There have been long arguments and discussions extending over months with the various interests. My hon. Friends and I on this side of the House have been closely concerned to ensure that the consumer's interests are safeguarded, that the consumer is not misled, and also that the dairy interest generally is safeguarded.

We now have it that, where a substitute is used in what the public would expect to be a wholly milk product, then that substitute must be declared. If it is a milk shake that the customer asks for, then it must contain real milk, and there is to be no nonsense about it. Today, there could be no nonsense about it. When the Regulations come into force in September, there cannot be nonsense about it. The man who sells in substitution something that is not real milk can be had up in the courts and fined and his reputation will be at stake.

I welcome the Regulations, because they will safeguard consumers and also dairy interests. The dairy industry is making a great effort—it is a joint campaign between producers and distributors to push the sale of genuine cow's milk. I disagreed with the hon. Member for Lincoln when he spoke about old-fashioned milk from old-fashioned cows. That is a very old-fashioned conception. All our cows today are attested and all our milk is clean and thoroughly reputable.

Mr. de Freitas

I hope that the hon. Member will do me justice. In the context in which I said it, I was contrasting it with drinking the new-fashioned vegetable fat.

Sir A. Hurd

That may be, but we are not as old-fashioned as the hon. Member seems to believe.

Happily, thanks to the joint efforts of the dairy industry, consumption is rising. It is essential that the good name of milk should be safeguarded. That is why I welcome the Regulations, because they safeguard the good name of genuine milk. If the customer asks for a milk drink, in future he will get it, whatever may have been palmed off on him in the past.

What about beverages, such as tea and coffee, of which milk is an additive rather than the main constituent? We have to face facts. There is this product, this stuff which is skimmed milk, the natural fat having been removed and vegetable fat having been put in substitution. It is convenient and it is cheap. There is nothing vicious about it. Some people say that it is better for health than the real product. I do not agree. There it is. There is nothing particularly harmful about it. There is no good ground far banning its use.

We have discussed this matter with the National Dairymen's Association, because we want to arrive at the right solution. Should caterers be required to display a placard saying that they use this stuff in tea arid coffee? That would immediately spring to mind as the right solution, so that if anyone uses this product he should declare it, so that the customer may know. The legal pundits say, however, that if that were done, it would give the all-clear for this artificial product to be used in all beverages in place of milk. That is to say, a milk shake might well be a product made of this skimmed milk with vegetable fat in substitution for the natural fat. Certainly, we do not want that. There may be a difference of opinion—lawyers often argue; but in this matter I tend to take the advice of the legal advisers of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture rather than of the legal advisers of the National Dairymen's Association.

I assure the House, because I have had a long time with my right hon. Friend the Minister on this topic, that he is as anxious as any back-bench Member to see the consumer, the milk producer and the distributor safeguarded. It is not because he does not want to do the job properly and fairly that he is introducing the Regulations, but quite the other way round. He is going just as far as he can go in altering the law to safeguard all these interests. There must, however, be practical realism concerning the length to which my right hon. Friend can go. If he were to go further and, possibly, give an all-clear to the use of this substitute, he would not be serving the best interests of the consumer or the producer.

I advise the House to reject the Prayer. I take the view of the National Dairymen's Association, whose representatives came to see us and said, "For heaven's sake, do not vote down these Regulations, because they go a long way to meet our case. Please try to persuade the Minister to go a little further and to overcome the objections of his legal advisers and find some way of meeting us 100 per cent., but do not adopt the line of voting against these Regulations." That was the view of the National Dairymen's Association when its representatives came to see us. In fact they are not far apart in their thinking from the National Farmers' Union. The N.F.U. said, I quote from the February issue of the British Farmer: … we do not wish to lose the substance for the shadow,' and there is a danger of this if the tea or coffee issue were pressed to an extent that the Regulations were either withdrawn or rejected. We therefore feel that the Regulations as they stand should be allowed to become law. At that stage, the tea and coffee issue can then be considered separately with a view to deciding what action can or should be taken to see that it is approriately dealt with. I think that is common sense and realism. I ask the Minister to do this in order to meet the anxieties of those of us who are milk producers—I happen to be one myself—or distributors, or just politicians. I ask him to get his advisory council—I believe he has a very competent advisory council—to keep a close watch on how these Regulations work out in practice and to tell Parliament, as soon as the need arises, how to strengthen or amend them if there is abuse regarding beverages like tea and coffee.

I commend these Regulations to the House. I feel that they go a long way to meet the points about which we are all anxious.

11.12 p.m.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Christopher Soames)

I am very glad that this debate has at last taken place. It might have been held at any time in the last three weeks. In fact, this is the last day on which the matter could come before the House. I feel that the debate will serve a useful purpose. This is a complicated subject, and I am sure that some anxiety has arisen in the minds of hon. Members on both sides of the House because of a misconception about the nature of the Regulations. They are designed to extend a new and significant measure of protection to the consumer in relation to a new technical development in the food industry. This is the production of a product made from skimmed milk from which the butter fat has been withdrawn and vegetable fat added.

The product has been made overseas for some years, and it has recently been manufactured in a very small way in this country. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) said that he knew of a number of firms that were manufacturing it. Perhaps he would let me know more about that.

Mr. de Freitas

I know of only one by name.

Mr. Soames

Only one. That was my information. It is sold in powder form for use by caterers—

Mr. de Freitas

The right hon. Gentleman seemed to imply that there is something discreditable about this. I was very careful not to give that impression. The product is held in the highest regard.

Mr. Soames

I thought I heard the hon. Gentleman say that it was being manufactured by a number of firms. That was the only point I was making.

It is sold in powder form to be used by caterers in cafés and other catering institutions. In this form it is more expensive than ordinary skimmed milk powder and cheaper than whole milk. It can be used to replace skimmed milk powder in cooking and to replace liquid milk in drinks. The second use of the product is in foods sold at higher prices, in some instances considerably higher prices, than whole milk. Some are baby foods. There are cases where the Government's medical advisers agree that this product may be useful. In other cases the makers recommend the product for use in the prevention or treatment of coronary disease, which was the point raised by the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer).

Mr. Harold Davies


Mr. Soames

I have not finished the point yet. Expert opinion on the soundness of these medical claims for its use in the treatment of coronary diseases is divided, and it is not for me to express an opinion one way or the other. Nor, on the other hand, can I deny that some medical men recommend their patients to use this preparation in which the butter fat is replaced by vegetable oils, and it is also not for me to deny the possibility of these doctors prescribing this food for their patients.

Mr. Harold Davies


Mr. Soames

I have very little time and a lot to answer. I am trying to develop a case. This subject has been under discussion for many months, and I wish to develop my case.

I must make it clear that there is nothing nutritionally defective about this product, nor is there any question of it being harmful. The Government's nutritional advisers have no objection to it.

We might, therefore, have taken the line that the general provisions of the Food and Drugs Act were sufficient to protect the consumer, and that the product should find its own level. But we recognised that the public might be confused as between this product and whole milk, so we decided, despite the fact that it was unobjectionable from the nutritional point of view, that the public should be protected by specific Regulations as well. There can, however, be no question of this product being banned. Indeed, the hon. Member for Lincoln agreed with that view.

I must make it clear that there was, following the many consultations that preceded the making of these Regulations, general agreement that the problem should be tackled by making Regulations to protect the consumer from being misled and not by setting out to ban the product. We have never set out to ban a new product on the ground that it competed with an established one. We did not try to ban margarine because it competed with butter: nor artificial cream because it competed with cream; nor artificial fibres because they competed with natural fibres.

It has been put out in this campaign, especially by the Milk Marketing Board, that this product should be banned. I do not think that anyone in this House would wish to work on such a course. What do these Regulations do? Firstly, this product has commonly come to be known as "filled milk." We feel that this name might give the erroneous impression that it was ordinary milk, and so the Regulations make it compulsory for the words "skimmed milk with non-milk fat", or certain equally specific and not more attractive alternatives, to be printed on the labels and in the advertisements of the product. We thus prohibit the use of the words "filled milk", with their misleading implications.

Secondly—though this is perhaps not fully realised by all hon. Members—the Regulations prohibit the labelling and advertising of this product, and of drinks containing it, in a manner suggestive of milk or anything connected with the dairy interests. It will be illegal to sell a drink containing it with any suggestion that it contains real milk, or to sell any drink with the words "milk" or "cream" in its name if it contains this skimmed milk with non-milk fat. Once these Regulations are in force, all who ask for milk or any drink the name of which contains the word "milk"—and I say this in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) who talked about a milk shake—can be sure that they are getting the real thing.

The hon. Member for Lincoln said that any drink could be served under these Regulations—

Mr. de Freitas

indicated dissent.

Mr. Soames

He used words very close to those. A customer who asks for milk or any drink in which the word "milk" is used is fully protected by these Regulations and is assured that he is getting whole milk.

Mr. Loughlin

What about tea or coffee?

Mr. Soames

I am coming to that. Does the hon. Gentleman think that I am not going to mention tea or coffee?

There is a further provision to require labels for these products to carry the words "Unfit for babies" or "Not to be used for babies", except in certain specified and well-defined cases which are suitable for baby foods. I think the House will agree that these Regulations provide valuable and, fitting safeguards for the consumer, and I believe that this is widely agreed among those who have studied them.

However, there is a school of thought, notably among dairy interests, the case for which was put forward by the hon. Member for Lincoln, that the Regulations should go further. It is suggested that not only should the Regulations seek to ensure that the customer gets whole milk when he asks for it, but that he should get it in drinks which normally contain it but in which the word "milk" is not used—tea and coffee are the most obvious examples. Mention has been made also of other drinks which are not consumed to the same extent as tea and coffee, such as Horlicks, hot chocolate and the like.

Those who have studied the matter realise that it is not possible to be as precise about this in the same way as we can be in relation to drinks the names of which contain the word "milk". I think there is no difference between us as to the Regulations as far as they go, but the suggestion is that canteens and catering establishments that wish to use this product should display a placard to the effect that they do so. This was the case that the hon. Member put forward. As he said, at one stage this was considered; indeed, in the proposals which were originally circulated to the interested parties there was a clause to this effect. But on consideration we thought, for reasons which I will tell the House, that this idea, though superficially attractive, would not be effective and that it would not be right to introduce it.

First, the obligation to display a placard would weaken the provisions for the defence of whole milk drinks which are in the Regulations and which we all agree are valuable. My Department has certain experience of this.

Mr. Harold Davies


Mr. Soames

It has. If an establishment displayed such a placard and then sold this product as a milk drink in defiance of the Regulations as they are, the court might be reluctant to take a serious view of it and enforcement authorities might hesitate to prosecute. In this event the placard would be a positive disadvantage to the consumer and indirectly to the dairy interests. Secondly, these Regulations deal only with this specific product known as filled milk. But it has always been possible for a caterer to use reconstituted dried milk or partially skimmed milk in tea or coffee or anything. It is really not possible to stipulate by placard or by any other means what should be, for instance, the butterfat content of a cup of tea. We should all burke at trying to do that.

But how far should this placard idea be taken to aid consumer protection? Should there be placards to say that sandwiches—butter is not mentioned in connection with sandwiches any more than milk is in regard to tea—in a particular establishment contain margarine instead of butter? [HON, MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Should there be placards to say that a substitute for sugar is used to sweeten drinks? [HON MEMBERS: "Yes.")

It is perfectly fair to ensure by all means that we have that if a customer asks for a product he should be sure that he is getting it, but as soon as we try to ensure that he gets it even if he does not ask for it, we start creating all sorts of anomalies and get on to most dangerous ground. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I assure the House that all our experience suggests that the display of a placard in a catering establishment is not an effective way of protecting the consumer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]

Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)


Mr. Soames

Given the difference of design and display methods in catering establishments, it is really just not possible to lay down regulations which will ensure that the placard is, in fact, displayed in a place where it will be noticed, let alone that it will be seen. There is a limit to what can effectively be done by regulation. Bearing in mind, firstly, that the use—

Mr. Dodds

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman told us that where margarine was used there was no need to have a notice displayed. Is he aware that under the Food and Drugs Act

Mr. Deputy-Speaker, (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Soames

Bearing in mind, firstly, that the use of this product in the United Kingdom—

Mr. Elwyn Jones


Mr. Soames

I cannot give way. Bearing in mind, firstly, that the use of this product in the United Kingdom is at present on a negligible scale; secondly, that to legislate for placards could well put at risk the valuable protection which the regulations afford as they stand; and, thirdly, the difficulties of ensuring the efficacy of a placard, I would strongly urge the House to accept the Regulations as they stand.

There are three organisations which to my knowledge—they have been referred to—have been taking a keen interest in this mater. The first is the Milk Marketing Board, which has been asking in recent times for banning, and, as we all agree, that is not on—

Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in order during the course of an argument deliberately to omit to mention that an Act of Parliament passed by this House, the Food and Drugs Act

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point of order for the Chair at all.

Mr. Soames

Then there are the dairymen. They kindly sent a deputation to

see me, and at the end of the meeting we issued an agreed statement to the effect that they welcomed the Regulations as laid before Parliament but urged me to consider the possibility of a further Regulation to cover the tea and coffee point.

Then there is the National Farmers' Union, which issued a statement in the edition of 21st January of the British Farmer in which it said that the Regulations, as they stand, should be allowed to become law and that at that stage the tea and coffee issue could then be considered separately with a view to deciding what action could and should be taken.

I take the point made by both the dairymen and the N.F.U. I certainly do not close my mind to the possibility of further protection to the consumer if experience with these Regulations shows that that is necessary.

It being half-past Eleven o'clock Mr. DEPUTY,SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 95A (Statutory Instruments, &c. (Procedure)):—

The House divided: Ayes 152, Noes 201.

Division No. 80.] AYES [11.30 p.m.]
Ainsley, William Gourlay, Harry MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)
Albu, Austen Greenwood, Anthony Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Grey, Charles Manuel, A. C.
Awbery, Stan Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mapp, Charles
Bacon, Miss Alice Grimond, J. Marsh, Richard
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mason, Roy
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hannan, William Mendelson, J. J.
Blackburn, F. Hart, Mrs. Judith Millan, Bruce
Blyton, William Hayman, F. H. Milne, Edward J.
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.) Herbison, Miss Margaret Mitchison, G. R.
Bowles, Frank Hill, J. (Midlothian) Moody, A. S.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hilton, A. V. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby,S.)
Brockway, A. Fenner Holman, Percy Oram, A. E.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Houghton, Douglas Oswald, Thomas
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Howell, Charles A. Padley, W. E.
Callaghan, James Hoy, James H. Paget, R. T.
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)
Cliffe, Michael Hunter, A. E. Pavitt, Laurence
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Peart, Frederick
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Pentland, Norman
Davies,Rt.Hn.Clement(Montgomery) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Plummer, Sir Leslie
Davies, G. Cited (Rhondda, E.) Janner, Sir Barnett Popplewell, Ernest
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Prentice, R. E.
Deer, George Jeger, George Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
de Freitas, Geoffrey Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Probert, Arthur
Delargy, Hugh Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Diamond, John Jones, Dan (Burnley) Randall, Harry
Dodds, Norman Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Redhead, E. C.
Donnelly, Desmond Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Reynolds, G. W.
Driberg, Tom Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Rhodes, H.
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Evans, Albert Kelley, Richard Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Fitch, Alan King, Dr. Horace Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Lee, Frederick (Newton) Rogers, C. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Forman, J. C. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Ross, William
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Short, Edward
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
George,Lady Megan Lloyd(Crmrthn) Loughlin, Charles Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Ginsburg, David Mahon, Dr. J. Dickson Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mackie, John Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Small, William Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.) Willey, Frederick
Snow, Julian Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline) Williams, D. J. (Heath)
Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Thornton, Ernest Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Spriggs, Leslie Thorpe, Jeremy Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Steele, Thomas Timmons, John Winterbottom, R. E.
Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Wainwright, Edwin Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Stones, William Watkins, Tudor Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.) Weitzman, David
Swingler, Stephen White, Mrs. Eirene TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Sylvester, George Whitlock, William Mr. Ifor Davies and Mr. Lawson
Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Wilkins, W. A.
Agnew, Sir Peter Godber, J. B. More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Aitken, W. T. Goodhew, Victor Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Gower, Raymond Nabarro, Gerald
Allason, James Grant, Rt. Hon. William Neave, Airey
Ashton, Sir Hubert Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. Noble, Michael
Atkins, Humphrey Green, Alan Nugent Sir Richard
Barter, John Gresham Cooke, R. Page, John (Harrow, West)
Batsford, Brian Grimston, Sir Robert Partridge, E.
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Hall, John (Wycombe) Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Peel, John
Berkeley, Humphry Harris, Reader (Heston) Percival,. Ian
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Bishop, F. P. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Bossom, Clive Harvie Anderson, Miss Pitt, Miss Edith
Bourne-Arton, A. Hastings, Stephen Pott, Percivall
Box, Donald Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Boyle, Sir Edward Hendry, Forbes Prior, J. M. L.
Brewis, John Hiley, Joseph Proudfoot, Wilfred
Bromley-Davenport,LL-Col.S1rWalter Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Ramsden, James
Bullard, Denys Hirst, Geoffrey Rawlinson, Peter
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Hocking, Philip N. Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Butcher, Sir Herbert Holland, Philip Rees, Hugh
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Hollingworth, John Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Hopkins, Alan Ridsdale, Julian
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Hornby, R. P. Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Channon, H. P. G. Hughes-Young, Michael Roots, William
Chataway, Christopher Hurd, Sir Anthony Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Chichester-Clark, R. Hutchinson, Michael Clark Russell, Ronald
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Iremonger, T. L. Scott-Hopkins, James
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Seymour, Leslie
Cleaver, Leonard Jennings, J. C. Shaw, M.
Cole, Norman Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn
Cooper, A. E. Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Skeet, T. H. H.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green) Smithers, Peter
Cordle, John Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Corfield, F. V. Kerr, Sir Hamilton Stanley, Hon. Richard
Coulson, J. M. Kershaw, Anthony Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Kirk, Peter Studholme, Sir Henry
Critchley, Julian Kitson, Timothy Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Sumner, Donald (Orpington)
Cunningham, Knox Leburn, Cilmour Tapsell, Peter
Curran, Charles Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
Currie, G. B. H. Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Dalkeith, Earl of Lilley, F. J. P. Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Dance, James Linstead, Sir Hugh Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Litchfield, Capt. John Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Deedes, W. F. Loveys, Walter H. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
de Ferranti, Basil MacArthur, Ian Turner, Cohn
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. McLaren, Martin van Straubenzee, W. R.
Doughty, Charles MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Vane, W. M. F.
Drayson, G. B. McMaster, Stanley R. Vickers, Miss Joan
Duncan, Sir James Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley) Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Emery, Peter Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Wall, Patrick
Errington, Sir Eric Maddan, Martin Ward, Dame Irene
Farr, John Maginnis, John E. Watts, James
Fell, Anthony Maitland, Sir John Webster, David
Fisher, Nigel Markham, Maier Sir Frank Wells, John (Maidstone)
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Whitelaw, William
Freeth, Denzil Marten, Neil Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Galbraith, Hon. T. C. D. Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Gammans, Lady Mawby, Ray Woodnutt, Mark
Gardner, Edward Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Woollam, John
Gibson-Watt, David Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Worsley, Marcus
Clover, Sir Douglas Mills, Stratton
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Montgomery, Fergus TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Mr. Finlay and Mr. J. E. B. Hill.